Our family of five recently moved in with my parents while building a new home. This is an unlikely situation for several reasons:
- From the start, I was not an advocate of building a home.
- We have never built a home before.
- The lot we purchased was owned by the builder, so we didn’t have the option to evaluate different builders.
- We are by nature cautious and fiscally-conservative people.
- I am in the customer experience business, and over-analyze every step of every experience.
Yet, our home is nearing completion. How were we ever able to get here with all that stacked against us? Our builder wore jeans.
Upon arriving at the office to meet our builder, the receptionist greeted us warmly, offered us coffee and showed us back to the meeting, where our realtor and the builder sat chatting. When the builder stood up to shake our hands, I noticed he was wearing jeans.
Let me offer some context here: Our builder, Brian, is the president of his company, and is also the president of our home state’s builders’ association. This is a man who could be living a far more “elitist” lifestyle…yet here he was, meeting new clients in jeans. I liked that about him. It bespoke of humbleness, authenticity, and embodied the work he took pride in.
As the building process progressed, evidence supporting our decision to build with Brian kept adding up: he let us know up-front when changes we were requesting would add to our cost; he gave his honest opinion about design elements, but allowed us the final decision; responded timely to emails we sent him; and he dedicated a wonderful and organized designer, Dawn, to work with us for the length of the building process.
The Ultimate Question
Leaving the office, my husband and I tried to understand why Brian wearing jeans increased our comfort and confidence in him as our builder. We discussed other service providers to gain context:
Our children’s pediatrician
The painter we used to freshen up our house for a quick sale
Our church pastor
We agreed that to see any of these individuals show up to their day-jobs in jeans wouldn’t create a favorable impression. I then posed the ultimate question:
Do you think any of these service providers considers how deeply their wardrobe choice is evaluated by their customers?
While each of these professionals could argue that they know their clients expect to see them in their standard attire, I wonder if they understand the extent to which their choice of clothing truly impacts the impressions they are making. And if all this comes simply from a clothing selection, what other “evidence” are consumers gathering every day from service providers?
- How many rings before a phone call is picked up?
- What photos &images are on a business’ website?
- How easy is it to gather information about products or services?
- What extra steps must I take due to a company’s “policies?”
This evidence all contributes to what is commonly known as “a customer experience.” Experiences are made up of not just logical thought, but also deep subconscious thoughts and emotions. Human beings make decisions every day based on both logic and emotion, a surprising amount of it being done subconsciously. And these decisions – to shop a certain store, purchase a particular product, subscribe to a service – ultimately will impact your business. If a customer’s experience is favorable – if the evidence received is consistently positive – you’re in luck! But do you even know the impact the evidence you’re providing consumers – deliberately or not – is having on them each time they interact with your business?
Planting the Evidence
How can ensure that what evidence your customers are gathering drives them to make decisions which help your business to grow and thrive?
Map Your Customers’ Journey
Customer journey mapping is far more than a big buzz word in business these days. In fact, it’s a very powerful research tool that can be used to achieve the following key objectives:
- Build an understanding, across your organization, for what your customers are really experiencing when doing business with you.
- Uncover key moments that are causing your customers extreme pain, frustration
or effort – or are bringing them unexpected joy, but are occurring inconsistently.
- Understand where along the journey and how to best measure your customers’ experience with you, particularly in this day and age of over-surveying.
Build a Roadmap for Change
I’ve worked with companies with large CX budgets and an entire portfolio of “CX initiatives” who ask me “why does our customer satisfaction continue to drop?” I’ve seen other companies on a shoestring CX budget make major improvements in their VoC measures. The difference was not size. It was resource prioritization. The smaller organizations had to be prudent in where and how they spent their budgets. They focused their efforts and dollars on what would drive the greatest impact. The less effective organizations lacked focus and an integrated plan. A journey map is a powerful tool to identify areas of improvement opportunity, true. But the real change comes when action plans are built and resources are prioritized around these opportunities. Insight is foundational, the plan of attack is critical.
Understand Key Customer Experiences and How They Change Over Time
When done thoroughly, customer journey mapping engages both key employees close to your customers, and customers themselves. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if, once you’d made targeted changes to your customers’ journey, you had a way to understand the impact those changes were really having on those customers? With a customer journey map and an action plan for improvement in hand, the best thing you can do is build a measurement program to track your customers’ perceptions. Having this voice-of-customer measurement program in place prior to executing any changes allows you to establish a baseline on key CX metrics (satisfaction, loyalty, effort, NPS, etc.).
The Last Word
I recently received via email one of two customer satisfaction surveys Dawn told us to expect during the build process. She’d told us that they’d identified that midway through the build process and once the home was complete were two critical points in their customers’ journey, and they valued our feedback. Seems like they get this “customer journey” thing!
While I treasure the quality time our kids are getting to spend with their grandparents – and honestly, my folks have been fantastic adjusting to us crashing their home – I can honestly say I’m so thankful that first day we met Brian, he was wearing jeans.